Preventing Cavities: A Focus on Nutrition

Author: Shannon Sutton, RDH

As a Registered Dental Hygienist, my main goal in patient care is education and prevention. Nutrition plays an integral role in the prevention of dental caries aka cavities (sugar bugs for the kids). In particular, frequent exposure to carbohydrates and acidic foods and drinks are the most damaging to our healthy tooth enamel. 

To understand why this is you have to know that we all have bacteria naturally present in our mouths that we acquire sometime after birth from our parents, relatives, etc. These bacteria feed on the carbohydrates that we eat and produce acids. These acids, in turn, eat through the tooth enamel to cause a cavity. If we feed these bacteria constantly throughout our day, then we have a great chance that the excessive acidic environment will cause a cavity or two. Add acids from fruit juices, sodas, energy drinks, etc., and you up your chances of a cavity forming on your teeth. 

Some examples of cavity-causing carbohydrates include sugar, sodas, fruits and fruit juices, rice, bread, and crackers. Limiting your frequency of exposures to these foods and drinks will greatly reduce the risk of cavities. Start by swapping carbohydrate containing snacks with fresh veggies or cheese. There are many other factors that can increase risks for dental caries and of course good oral hygiene, fluoride and xylitol products can reduce the risk, but to keep it simple a few changes in your everyday nutrition can make a big impact.